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Trade Legends Guest
A Painter’s Journey: From Recognition to Guiding the Next Generation

James from RSP Decorations joined the Trade Legends podcast to share his experience in the painting and decorating industry. His knowledge stems from over a decade in business along with recognition at the highest levels, having won Painter of the Year at the On Tools Awards in 2023.

James fell into decorating after an unconventional path. Originally thinking he’d pursue plumbing, unpaid work experience led nowhere and he picked up a paintbrush instead. His first company job lasted half an apprenticeship before the 2008 recession, forcing James to complete his training elsewhere. From there, steady experience grew his skillset over many years in both domestic and social housing projects.

While James says decorators rarely gain much recognition, entering awards changed that. Shortlisted for Painter of the Year in 2022, he won the following year alongside Mentor of the Year accolades. Such honours raise professional profiles but also add unwelcome pressure to please increased scrutiny. Still, James sees value in using platforms to showcase one’s work and ethos to potential clients.

Social media plays a major role in James’ marketing approach. He credits Instagram primarily for new business leads, as customers browse portfolios to gauge business vibes before hiring. Although time-consuming, regular posting of photos and videos offers a valuable free promotion tool compared to paid advertising of unknown results. Branding vehicles further extends one’s digital presence on the road.

Dealing with customers presents its challenges too. While friendly interactions come naturally to James, paperwork administration proved a constant struggle until hiring help. Getting home exhausted only to start invoicing or quoting drained motivation. Outsourcing freed time for family or simply relaxing at day’s end. Other trades share loathing of bureaucratic tasks but technology may offer relief through scheduling, invoices and quoting software.

As any skilled trade, painting requires substantial equipment investment vulnerable to theft. Dust extractors, sprayers and sanders can each cost thousands, adding financial hardship after break-ins. James advocates stronger manufacturer identification of tools to aid recovery through centralized databases. Stricter law enforcement is also needed while demand persists for cheap illicit goods.

Vehicle security similarly needs addressing so as not to condemn owners to uninsurability after premium hikes. James’ Range Rover pal faces a 3000 pound renewal due to London theft rates, a common plight rendering imports useless. Manufacturers could certainly implement defenses to thwart opportunistic crime waves.

Beyond running his business, James dedicates time training the next generation. Now on his third apprentice, the hiring process itself presents challenges for both employers and learners. Comparing classroom versus practical knowledge, James’ frustration grew as college disruptions pushed completion dates back, costing time and money.

Yet apprenticeships remain critically important amidst widespread skills shortages across the construction sector. Over half the painting workforce is now over 50, meaning in coming years experienced decorators may disappear without replacements. James advises patience for newcomers facing inevitable ridicule, as dedication will see them through to stable careers ahead.

Overall James’ story outlines both rewards and struggles within painting and decorating. From recognition raising one’s profile to dark realities like crime and workplace frustrations, his well-rounded perspective benefits any considering a skilled trade pathway. With professional guidance and persistent passion, decorative arts remain a viable and fulfilling long-term option.